The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion Review

Best for men interested in a three-season full-length merino wool sock that boasts comfort, breathability, and warmth.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $25 List | $19.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Durable, comfortable, wide temperature regulation, versatile, fitted
Cons:  Not ideal for hot temperatures, slow to dry
Manufacturer:   Darn Tough
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 13, 2017
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79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 11
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Warmth - 25% 9
  • Wicking and Breathability - 25% 7
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Drying Speed - 10% 5

The Skinny

The Darn Tough Full Cushion wraps comfort and performance into one award-winning package. This Editors' Choice winner stands out for its wide range of temperature regulation attributed to its mid-weight Merino-wool blend. It wicks, breathes well, and provides unbeatable durability. Because of its great performance, we think it's an excellent option for a wide range of outdoor pursuits in all sorts of weather, complete with a male-specific fit.

The race for Editors' Choice was tight as the Smartwool PhD Crew sock proved to be much more comfortable with its super cozy and thick merino-blend sole. However, the Smartwool PhD wasn't as breathable or as durable. It also doesn't come with an awesome lifetime guarantee like the Darn Tough! This makes it a better contender with better value. Overall, this ultra-durable Editors' Choice award winner will keep your feet comfortable and protected mile-after-mile, year after year.

Need a Cooler Boot Sock?
There are some days where you need a full boot sock, but it's over 90F outside. Darn Tough has come up with the Coolmax Boot Sock for just such days. This boot sock still has the full boot cushion you're looking for with engineered Coolmax fabric to help wick away more moisture in those warmer climates. Check these socks out if you still need a full cushion sock during the hottest of days.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Darn Tough Full Cushion is our Editors' Choice award winner for men. This full-length Merino-blend hiking sock is best for adventuring during the Fall, Spring, and Winter months in cold to warm temperatures. Its performance extends to all types of weather conditions including cold and wet to sunny and dry.

Performance Comparison


A look at the Full Cushion  our Editors' Choice pick for men.
A look at the Full Cushion, our Editors' Choice pick for men.

Comfort


This Editors' Choice is streamlined to fit like a lightweight sock but with mid-weight cushion. The forefoot and heel feature a little more extra to help provide more comfort in areas of high use - but not too much that the fabric can't breathe.

Featuring a 66% Merino wool, 32% nylon, and 2% lycra spandex blend, this mid-weight hiking sock provides excellent cushion underfoot with a streamlined fit. Putting it on is like slipping your foot into a soft, breathable blanket. The Merino wool blend is soft to the touch, while the spandex and lycra keep the sock from slipping down while adventuring. The compression paneling concentrated around the arch of the foot and the ankle provides additional support without allowing it to bunch on the trail. We loved the length of the sock that easily accommodates a hiking boot. As a result, its a perfect sock for everything from day hikes to long thru-trails.


Falling in the trend of better comfort among Smartwool contenders, the Smartwool Hike Medium - Women's also scores a little higher in this category because it boasts thicker materials underfoot and a similar level of comfort. Many of our female testers also preferred this female-specific design, making it our Editors' Choice winner for women.

These socks are tight fitting with decent cushion and adaptable. Wear each with a sock or a hiking boot.
These socks are tight fitting with decent cushion and adaptable. Wear each with a sock or a hiking boot.

Overall, the Full Cushion sock is super cozy, though it's not the most comfortable contender out there.

The Full Cushion offers great comfort in the form of compression paneling and padding in the forefoot and heel.
The Full Cushion offers great comfort in the form of compression paneling and padding in the forefoot and heel.

Warmth


Boasting the best insulation, the Darn Tough Full Cushion is quite warm and does well in most weather conditions. The 66% Merino wool, 32% nylon, 2% lycra spandex blend does a great job at insulating feet when wet and dry. We appreciate a tall sock that provides additional warmth on cold days. In our testing, we observed that this contender kept our feet warm in temperatures in the low 20s (degree Fahrenheit) while hiking and standing around.


Comparatively, the Smartwool PhD performs at a similar level keeping our feet warm in similar conditions. However, because the length of the sock is much lower, we found that overall warmth wasn't as ample as the Darn Tough Full Cushion or the Smartwool Hike Medium (for women).

If you're not in the market for a super warm sock, perhaps a lightweight option is a better choice. Be sure to check out the Darn Tough Light Hiker for men or the Darn Tough Micro Crew for women, our Top Pick for active wear. Both feature a lightweight material that insulates well for use in the Spring, Fall, and Summer. The Full Cushion is a better option for Fall, Spring, and Winter.

Testing each sock for dry warmth in the Alaskan Range. Here we test the Darn Tough Full Cushion and Smartwool PhD head to head to see which kept our feet warmer in just a thin pair down booties on snow. In this particular test  the Smartwool won for its thicker fabric design.
Testing each sock for dry warmth in the Alaskan Range. Here we test the Darn Tough Full Cushion and Smartwool PhD head to head to see which kept our feet warmer in just a thin pair down booties on snow. In this particular test, the Smartwool won for its thicker fabric design.

Wicking and Breathability


The fine gauge merino wool allows great breathability while running, hiking, and/or backpacking.


Featuring a fine gauge Merino wool blend, this sock wicks and breathes. Our testers took it running, backpacking, and hiking, where it excelled in warm to cool weather conditions. The fitted design wicks moisture away from the skin and pushes it to the outside of the fabric, keeping skin dry. We also notice that water beads on the fabric (not immediately absorbing) which provides excellent wicking capabilities. This makes it an ideal three-season sock option, best for fall, spring, and winter.


Even though it is thick, it is one of the most breathable of all thick socks. It is ideal for running on cold winter mornings, keeping feet dry even with high-intensity activity. That said, there is a limit to what it can do. Given its high boot height, it's very warm and not recommended for wear on super hot days. Use a lightweight option like the Darn Tough Light Hiker or the Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool for warm summer days.

A look at the breathable fabric around the calf that keeps legs dry on warmer days.
A look at the breathable fabric around the calf that keeps legs dry on warmer days.

Durability


Like the name infers, this sock is truly "Darn Tough". It, like all other socks from Darn Tough, has scored high in this category. The Merino wool construction provides durability for years to come. In our testing, we put it through the wringer. We wore it while trekking through varying microclimates of the high Peruvian Andes for a month. We took it splitboarding in the Central Alaska mountain range for a week. We also went backpacking through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.


Overall, we put in over 60 miles of hard hiking, running, and snowboarding, and in the end, we saw some pilling around the heel and midfoot. For a hiking sock, this is truly impressive. The only contender that looked newer is the ultra durable synthetic Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro, which is a blend that offers more durable polymer fibers but compromises warmth. What's more is the Darn Tough Full Cushion comes with a lifetime warranty - like all Darn Tough products. This means that if you get a hole in the material, you can send it back for a brand new pair. That said, if it's served you well and you like Darn Tough, do them a solid and just buy another pair to support a company that makes exceptional products.

Even after 60 miles of use we didn't see any serious fabric compaction or pilling. We were truly impressed with this Darn Tough sock!
Even after 60 miles of use we didn't see any serious fabric compaction or pilling. We were truly impressed with this Darn Tough sock!

Drying Speed


Of all the competitors tested, we are sad to say that this sock is not quick to dry. In our dryer tests, it took a long time to fully dry. It also absorbs a lot of water. That said, when looking at the rate of drying, it is on par with other contenders in this review. Though, because it is more absorbent, it stays wet longer.

That said, in our field tests while hiking through streams, our testers found it dries quickly enough while hiking in the Summer and Spring. As a result, we'd still recommend it for periods of wet weather, but not if your hiking trips call for rain the whole time.

A look at the comparative weights during our dryer tests. Here the vertical line with the name of the sock shows the time at which each dried in our controlled in-lab tests.
A look at the comparative weights during our dryer tests. Here the vertical line with the name of the sock shows the time at which each dried in our controlled in-lab tests.

Best Application


As one of the most versatile socks tested, the Darn Tough Full Cushion is ideal for just about anything (except for the hottest summer days). Its features a wonderful balance of warmth, comfort, and breathability making it a great option for a plethora of activities. It's a solid gear choice for multi-day backpacking trips, day hikes, skiing, and more. If hot weather hikes are more your style, consider the Darn Tough Light Hiker instead.

Jared hikes  snowboards  and hangs out in the Full Cushion sock. Talk about great comfort and versatility! Take this quick-drying sock everywhere from backcountry skiing to day hiking to backpacking.
Jared hikes, snowboards, and hangs out in the Full Cushion sock. Talk about great comfort and versatility! Take this quick-drying sock everywhere from backcountry skiing to day hiking to backpacking.

Value


Don't let the high price of this sock scare you. For just $24, you get a lifetime guarantee paired with fantastic durability. That said, if you're looking to pinch your pennies, the Danish Merino Wool Unisex Sock for roughly $9 per sock (comes in a three pack).

Conclusion


The Darn Tough Full Cushion sock is a favorite amongst our male testers for its great durability and balanced performance that will have you hiking mile after mile. It is our Editor's Choice winner for balancing the best performance elements.


Amber King